"No Hype...All Truth" Leadership GLUE Video Series
Guest: Jessica Meyers, Founder/Owner/President of the JEM Group
Transcript Reading Time: 5:20
SUMMARY: Jessica Meyers, Founder/Owner/President of the JEM Group, a Design - Build Construction Group in Harrisburg, PA gives her insights into Leadership, Business Goals, Growth, the Guardrails to Success and her future leadership goals.
Leadership GLUE Video Series:
Guest: Jessica Meyers, Founder/President – JEM Group
Host: Kae Wagner, Founder/President – North Star Marketing, Inc.
Author / Speaker: Leadership GLUE: Be the GLUE in Your Business
without Getting Stuck in the Daily Grind
Kae Wagner 00:02
Welcome to the Leadership Glue Video Series where we talk with business owners who share the "No Hype, All Truth" story of their success. I'm Kae Wagner and today we have with us Jessica Meyers, president and founder of the JEM Group, a Design / Build construction company in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Jessica, welcome to Leadership Glue. I'm so happy that you're here.
Jessica Meyers 00:27
Thank you, Kae. I'm happy to be here today.
You bet. So today, we're going to talk about leadership, we're going to talk about the JEM Group. And first off, tell me, when did you start the JEM Group?
Jessica Meyers 00:43
We started the end of 2003, yes 2003.
Okay, yeah. And when you started the JEM Group, Jessica, what was your goal when you first started, tell us about your goal, and then how it's changed since that day started?
Jessica Meyers 01:01
Yeah, absolutely. So when I first started JEM, my overall goal was to create a woman led diverse construction company, I had spent about 10 years working for a large regional contractor. And through that work, I recognized and identified the need for diversity in the construction industry. And I thought it would be a great opportunity, as a woman with some construction experience to really take a shot at filling that void. So that was the initial concept over time, certainly, that evolved. Being a diverse organization has always been important to me. But about six years ago, my focus began to shift to purpose, and really providing a consistent and successful customer experience. So it has evolved over time.
And in that time, I mean, that's an interesting shift. I think, Jessica, moving from that first goal, which I think you've achieved, moving into purpose. How would you describe that purpose? What is that purpose? What is really now driving your success and your growth? I know you guys are wildly successful.
So, as we got the first few years, you know, you're in survival mode, you're building your team, you're building your processes. And that was the primary focus. But then it became - OK, alright, why are we doing this, you know, what we're doing? What is behind building these buildings and these processes. And that's whenever we began to dig deeper, when JEM began to dig deeper about what what does this word mean to me. And what we landed on at JEM is building to improve lives. That has been our mantra and our purpose for probably six plus years now. That is what keeps us grounded and motivated. And we talk about that a lot in our business, we believe that it improves the lives of theJEM team members, our subcontractors, our clients and the broader community. And so that is really what we rally around here. As a firm, those other things I talked about the processes and doing good work and the customer experience, that stuff is all really important, too. But the purpose is truly our foundation.
Kae Wagner 03:36
Cool. That's like the guardrails for you guys. Right? That's how you operate?
Jessica Meyers 03:41
Yeah, absolutely. It's a good way to put it. Yeah.
Yeah. So how would you describe yourself as a leader and in Leadership Glue, we talk about the business owner, the founder is always the GLUE in the business. Right? And I know that's true for you. How would you describe yourself as a leader?
So I, when I think about myself as a leader, I think about a few words, I think about being present, engaged and being authentic. One of the things I love is coming into the office every day. The remote work thing, yes, I can do it if I have to. But I love to be in the office. We're in a relatively new office space. And I had the opportunity to decide where I wanted to be. And I picked an office that's right in the heart of our operations team, because I want to know what's going on. I want to be present. I want my team to see that level of engagement. And I didn't pick that spot so that I could micromanage anybody or so that I could check up on people, but really, to let them know that I'm showing that I care and that I'm engaged and I want to know what what's going on. And you can learn a tremendous amount by just listening. So that's really important to me as a leader. To just be present and engaged and for my team to feel that.
I think that is so cool, Jessica, because we talk about being visible for your people. And if you don't have visibility to a certain degree, you're going to lose touch. We listen in on a lot of employee Conversations. I'm a market researcher, I call myself a professional eavesdropper. And we listen in on a lot of conversations. And one of the things that employees tell us all the time is that business owners and leaders, employees don't know what you do. They're like, What is she doing now? You know, so you have to have that leadership. I love that you are in the middle. It's almost like Peter Drucker's thing about management by walking around, you know, having those interactions and just listening. I love being in the office and being able to hear the business move, like the movement and the hubbub of the business. So cool. I love that you're doing that. And while we're talking about people, let's talk about the people factor in your business. How would you describe your people strategy? So what are your strategies as far as people go, like, bringing people in from the outside, cultivating from the inside, that kind of strategy? And the goals that you have in working with your team?
Yeah, sure. Great question. I think people is where a lot of business owners are focusing a ton of time and energy more than ever, and really, the people at JEM have been crucial to our success and growth. And that certainly won't change into the future. They're the ones out there on the front line every day interacting with our clients. So it's just such an important aspect. So we've changed a little bit in our recruiting and hiring strategy. And I think that that has been a bit of a game changer for us. We used to get a resume in and being a construction firm, we would immediately focus on the technical skills, okay, check the box, engineering degree, certifications, okay. There'll be good, let's make them an offer.
Jessica Meyers 07:28
And what we were finding is that we weren't getting the whole picture. And so now, yes, the technical skills, there is a check the box there; but now we are digging much deeper on the types of behaviors that we want to have in our team members. And we uncover those, you know, through our interview process and the types of questions that we're asking. We're asking questions around, you know, our values, and, and our purpose. And that has led us to hiring a much more well-rounded and well-suited candidate for JEM group. And we are now seeing the positive results of this improved hiring process. It's not just about understanding how to run a construction project, it's a lot of the soft skills and how we interact with each other and our clients. That's what's going to make our service experience and our culture at JEM group what we want it to be. So that has been a strategy our recruiting, and bringing people on.
Jessica Meyers 08:35
And then what happens after that, once we bring them on board is everyone at JEM group is at a different kind of stage, if you will, in their career. Some people might have 25 years experience, some people might have two years experience. No matter where you are in your career, you have goals, you have things that you want to do. So once that person comes on board, really understanding, you know, what the short and long term career path is of that individual and then putting together a plan that will support that growth. That is part of our development plan, but it's also part of our retention strategy as well. So right now, we're in the process of updating all those development plans as a way for people to see their path and their future and their role here at JEM. So we're very excited about that.
Kae Wagner 09:30
Yeah, it's so critical for people to know where they're headed. Everybody wants to have a goal, right? Now, it's interesting, you're talking about soft skills for your people, as you're recruiting. I always want to find a different term for soft skills. I haven't found one yet because I think it needs to be a term that's imbued with more of what really happens when you when you have strong leadership skills. We know in business personal development as a leader is actually a business asset. It's a competitive asset. It puts you ahead of other people. And I know you, Jessica, you have been involved and engaged in personal development all your career, right? So tell us about what you're doing, what are some of the concrete things you do to increase your expertise, your experience, your knowledge? Now, some of this I know happens intuitively for you. But I also know that you are very intentional in creating more depth in your leadership, and also your personal development as a leader.
Jessica Meyers 10:53
Yeah, absolutely Kae. I know that I talked about my team and their development plans and that I need to make that same investment of time in myself. So I continue to grow as a leader of at JEM and it's also just good for your overall well being to have that personal development.
Jessica Meyers 11:13
So I've done a few things over the years. I think the one constant for the 10 plus years, is I've been a member of a CEO peer group, called Vistage. I've got a tremendous amount out of that experience. I actually consider that group, like my informal board of directors. You are able to take challenges in issues to this group and process them and be open and honest and transparent about what's really happening in the business. There's a ton of growth that happens through those conversations. Of course, we have speakers as well on a variety of topics. So I feel like every month I'm getting training in a topic that comes up. And I think oh, that doesn't really apply to me. But it really does, you can learn something from every speaker. And that's been absolutely tremendous.
Jessica Meyers 12:07
For me, the other place where I've learned. And this might seem a little unusual, but I've served on a lot of board of directors, and probably been doing that for 20 years. And through those experiences...If you roll up your sleeves, you can really learn a lot from the organizations. I've been on the for profit side and nonprofit side of board engagement, or board roles rather. And I have learned so much from those organizations and for the people that I have served with. I've gotten just as much out of being on those boards as I have given.
Jessica Meyers 12:17
And I think I look at those engagements a little bit differently. People think, well, I'm giving my time. Well, of course I am. But I get so much from those experiences. And then sort of the last bucket that I think about is I have a group of friends and colleagues that are also business owners, and we get together. And we have informal conversations. And I have gotten a tremendous amount of mentorship and support and growth, from maintaining those relationships. There's so much to get when people have like walked in, in your shoes, or maybe they are currently where you're walking kind of through the same same challenges. I think it's important to have those, you know, relationships as well. And so to me, the the personal and professional development like that, that's a journey. Like that doesn't end when I have 30 years experience or 35 years experience, you know, it's it needs to continue.
Kae Wagner 13:46
Yes. What's always interesting to me is what you do and developing yourself as a leader also kind of seeps into other areas of your life. Right? Like it impacts your friendships, your relationship with your spouse, your kids it. It's not just in one little business container. It works in other parts of your life as well. Absolutely. Yeah. So finally, what's the most important thing that you want to share with our audience of leaders who are listening in today?
Jessica Meyers 14:23
Oh, boy, the most important thing I want to share. So when I think about being a leader, I think there is a lot of pressure for us to be perfect. Right? There are a lot of folks looking at us whether you're a CEO or in some type of executive management role. So and that's an opportunity, right? There are a lot of people looking at you, they look at how you show up every day. And what I tried to do is to be authentic, I tried to be real and to be human And I think it's okay for the people that work in your organization to know that you make mistakes, that things don't always go as planned and see you.
Jessica Meyers 15:13
Be resilient, Persevere, persevere, adapt. And that's how I try to lead.
Jessica Meyers 15:20
I was leading a team meeting several weeks ago, using teams, which we all been using for like two years now. And I had a technology blunder. And it's a small thing, but just be human. It happens, I ran around the corner, got someone, they helped me to get back on track.
Jessica Meyers 15:40
So I think just being authentic and not trying to be a perfect leader, is a really important aspect to bring to your role. And that's what one of the things that I tried to do here at JEM, and I think being that way, you'll have more connectivity with your team, because they'll be able to relate to you in in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Kae Wagner 16:04
Okay, and I said that that was the last question, but actually this one is for real. Finally, the last question. When you look at yourself, where you've come from, where you're headed, what are your future goals for your own leadership development? Give us the insider look at that?
Jessica Meyers 16:25
Yeah, so one of the things I've been thinking a lot about, as you know, outside of my work at JEM group, where do I want to spend my time? And I'd like to think over the past 26 years of being a woman in a male dominated business, that I have experiences and stories and knowledge that I can impart to other female leaders in the business. And I would like to help others who want to be entrepreneurial, or want to lead, by sharing that knowledge and those stories and help bring the next group of female leaders, help them realize their professional goals and help them reach those pinnacles in their career. And I think that's my opportunity to give back. And I do think that I will develop and grow through those relationships. I've been a mentor a number of years, and I get just as much from those experiences, as I think those who are mentoring. And so I see, you know, over my next however, many years, 10 to 15 years, whatever I have left in the tank that I want to mentor support other women who want to grow and develop a business. So that's what's next. That's what I would like to do.
Kae Wagner 18:01
Well, Jessica, I think you have a lot more than 10 - 15 years in your tank, so to speak. I think the world the business world is a much better place with you in it. And I think the women or men who you are going to be able to mentor are going to be very fortunate people because I know you have such a depth of wisdom and knowledge about being a leader. I've watched you in action. We sit together on a board and I think you're an amazing leader. So kudos to you. Love it. Well, so my friends,
Jessica Meyers 18:41
Thanks for including me in your your Leadership Glue. I'm super excited for the series. And I appreciate the opportunity to be here.
Kae Wagner 18:54
Yes, thank you. So my friends. Thank you for being here with us. And Jessica, thank you so much. We are doing "NO HYPE...ALL TRUTH" here at Leadership Glue.
Kae Wagner 19:08
Jessica Meyers, thank you for showing up authentically and sharing your story with us. So stay tuned and we have more to come. Thanks, Jessica. We'll talk to you soon.
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